Friday, January 8, 2010

The Oxford: a bit of Manhattan in downtown Bend

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 8:31 PM

Back when a good portion of my work called for long stays in New York City working in the editorial department of several publishing companies, I got to know the Manhattan hotel scene pretty well. Generally the publishers I worked for put me up in hotels that were once great but were quickly on their way to becoming fleabags. "Well it was a great hotel when Charles Dickens used to stay there when he visited the city, "they'd reply after I commented that the plumbing didn't work and in fact probably was the same as it had been when both Lincoln, and later, Grant were in the White House.
Either a fleabag in the making or they'd put me up in some way-down-on-its-luck mid-town hotel that was once where all the great stage stars stayed." By the time I stayed in said hotel it looked and felt like a morgue.
But every as time went along and I settled in with CBS Magazines for an editorial stint, things got better hotel-wise. At CBS, the publisher often put me up in what was the latest rage in accommodations-a boutique hotel.
Small in number of rooms, minimalist in design, sleek with lots of chrome and glass, and full of Bauhaus-inspired furnishings, the boutique hotels were the trendy places to stay.
They all had pretentious names: The Thomas, The Vermillion, and The Boulevard. Never was the word hotel used in conjunction with the names. It was assumed that you knew what The Thomas was and what to expect.
All the boutique hotels I had the pleasure of staying in were similar in three ways: 1) they had sparsely furnished lobbies, 2) had a check-in staff headed by a very sleek, attractive young woman decked out in all black, and 3) has a cozy dimly lit bar just off the lobby.
One night after a Jets-Broncos football game at the Meadowlands we fell out of the limo that took us to and from the game and headed to the bar at The Thomas.
There, our post-game revelry continued until we were informed that we were too noisy and that our future business at The Thomas wouldn't be welcome.
Fast forward a dozen years and boutique hotels are the norm up in Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland as well as every other major city in the U.S.
And now we have one in Bend, the Oxford Hotel in the heart of downtown by the public parking structure and across the street from Thump.
And while the hotel isn't officially open, I got a chance, along with 50 or 60 other Central Oregonians to see parts of it during a recent gathering there to honor those people who had helped bring the new Veteran's Memorial into being.
Walking to the event, I was first struck by the new ground-floor art gallery that's part of the building housing the new hotel. The gallery is very reminiscent in look and displays of hundreds of galleries in Manhattan, especially the Soho district.
My "I'll take Manhattan, the Bronx and State Island" senses now alerted, I walked into the Oxford and found myself smack dab in the middle of a very familiar and stunning boutique hotel. The lobby, from its lighting to its décor reek of chic.
One floor down where the Veteran's Memorial party was behind held is also home to the Below restaurant and lounge. A quick tour of the premises and I was fully transported back to Manhattan and couldn't resist the urge to order a double Stoli Gibson.
Now I know zip about the hotel business and even less what people want by way of lodging when they come to Bend on business or pleasure. What I do know is that the Oxford is something special and speaks very much to the now past "gold rush" era.
That noted, it's a very cool addition to downtown and a place all of us Big Apple lovers can direct our urbane friends to stay and can enjoy having a cocktail at from time to time.
And I suspect that having cocktails we won't get booted from the bar if the conversation gets a bit too lively.

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